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10 Tips for a Sustainable Christmas

According to Business, all of the waste generated around the festive period increases by 30% when compared to waste created throughout the rest of the year. Whether it’s food waste or plastic waste we’re producing, it’s still damaging the environment, with detrimental effects on wildlife and marine life, to name just a couple of ways in which pollution negatively impacts the world. It’s never been more important to think about reducing our carbon footprints and part of that is minimising the waste we’re producing, particularly at Christmas. With this in mind, here are ten ways in which you can be more sustainable this festive season:

1. Consider the wrapping materials you’re using

When it comes to wrapping your Christmas presents, make sure you opt for paper that is just that, paper. Refrain from buying foil wrapping paper, for instance. One of the oldest tricks in the book is to take some paper and scrunch it up in your hand. If it stays in a ball then it can be recycled, but if it doesn’t and it starts to unravel, then it cannot be recycled.

However, where this is a good trick if you already have the paper at home, it’s not as easy or simple in a supermarket if you’re buying new paper. Most shops will display and advertise whether or not wrapping paper can be recycled, acting almost as a unique selling point (USP) these days, so it’s never been easier to choose an eco-friendly wrapping solution.

Alternatively, you could choose to wrap your presents in fabric, which is a new and trendy wrapping form these days. Either way, as long as you’re refraining from using plastic or buying items with plastic in them to wrap your presents, you should be able to recycle the wrapping used.

2. Buy presents with as little packaging as possible

Where this might seem difficult, especially if you have children, what you should try and do is avoid presents that are wrapped in any type of plastic. Where little-to-no packaging whatsoever would be preferable, we understand that it’s not always possible. However, more manufacturers than ever before are swapping out their plastic materials for biodegradable or recyclable packaging materials in a bid to protect the planet. Local and independent stores are unlikely to have items for sale that are packaged tightly in impenetrable plastic boxes, so look to those shops for items that come with either no packaging or are sold to you using a simple paper bag.

3. Only buy the food you need

When it comes to food at Christmas, make sure you’re only buying the food that you know you’re going to consume, or that you can use another day. Christmas is a period where we buy in excess, but just because you can doesn’t mean that you should. If you have a family of five, then buy the same amount of food you would do throughout the rest of the year and maybe throw in a box of mince pies here and there.

Don’t go all-out on food that you may or may not use. The best thing to do to avoid buying food that will go to waste is to make a plan. Plan your meals, do your best to determine whether anyone will be visiting you, look at your food list and think about the leftovers you could make out of it. All of this will help you to cut down on food waste at Christmas.

Something else you can do is to shop locally. Visit the local green grocer, butcher and baker and give them your custom rather than large, corporate brands and supermarkets. You might even find that local shops will have more choice and variety, as well as having produce that is far fresher than that which you buy in the large supermarkets.

4. Use your leftovers

We’ve already touched briefly on making sure that you use up your leftover food, but there are some things you can do with it even if it has expired. Making the most of your leftovers involves, firstly, eating it yourself as a meal another day, providing it’s still within the use by date or best before date. If it goes beyond that date, then compost it yourself so that it can be used to fertilise your plants, shrubs and flowers in the spring.

As a last resort, you should place it in your food bin that will have been provided to you by your Local Authority. Most people do have one of these bins, so they have no choice but to put it in the landfill. Something else you could do is to check your cupboards for food that has a long best before date on them and, if you know you won’t use it, give it to a local food bank.

You could even offer it up to friends and family so as to ensure it doesn’t go to waste. You could even send people home with leftover food in tupperwares after Christmas dinner or Boxing Day buffet. If you know you can’t use it but it’s still good enough to eat, then give it away.

5. Make your own decorations

Making your own decorations, much like making your own gifts, can seem like a daunting, time-consuming task that you simply can’t spare the time for over the busy Christma period. However, there are some things you can do that are quick and simple. From cutting out pieces of newspaper into snowflake shapes with your children or looking for pinecones on the forest floor that you can sprinkle in icing sugar for a cost-effective Christmas ornament, you don’t need to be a fully-trained glassblower to make something festive that you can hang from your tree or place on your bookshelf.

6. Rent your Christmas tree

There are options when it comes to Christmas trees, whether you buy a real one, a fake one or rent one.The most eco-friendly option would be to rent a real Christmas tree. It sounds odd, but what happens is that a Christmas tree farm will cut down a tree for you to take home and you utilise it throughout the festive period. Then you give the tree back to the farm you got it from and they’ll replant it, allowing it to live out its life undisturbed in the forest.

The next best thing is to buy a real Christmas tree, use it throughout the season and then either replant it yourself, cut it up and compost it or leave it out for collection. Many Local Authorities will collect your tree and put it through a chipper to pave footpaths and other pedestrianised areas throughout the community. Also, the Christmas tree farm will endeavour to keep planting new trees, so your carbon footprint stays as minimal as possible.

Fake trees are the least environmentally-conscious choice to make when it comes to Christmas trees, mainly because they’re made from plastic. Plastic cannot be recycled and it isn’t an eco-friendly process to manufacture it in the first place. If you do not want your Christmas tree anymore, many people will throw it in landfill, where it will sit for many generations to come. If you do have one that you no longer want, then put it in a charity shop or a second-hand store for someone else to use. Never put them in the bin.

7. Gift reusable items, such as cups & straws

Gifting reusable items to your friends and family will encourage them to use that product rather than opting for disposable or single-use alternatives. Straws and coffee cups are two of the biggest culprits when it comes to generating waste. According to Condor Ferries, anywhere between 437 million and 3.8 billion plastic straws are thrown away and end up littered across coastlines throughout the world every single year.

Coffee cups, on the other hand, are top of the list when it comes to causing something called ‘The Coffee Pollution Problem’. The Guardian states that, in Britain alone, we throw away 2.5 billion coffee cups every year, with only 1 in 400 of those actually being recycled. In order to put a stop to this issue altogether, we need to make sure that we’re avoiding using disposable and single-use coffee cups, instead switching them out for reusable alternatives.

This is where VASO comes in. We are pleased to offer customers a complete and impressive range of reusable coffee cups, including flutes and tumblers. They can be used to house both hot and cold beverages, keeping your drinks at the desired temperature for hours on end. Perfect for any commuter or someone who loves taking a stroll in the great outdoors, reusable cups are a versatile gift that keeps on giving throughout the year.

Reusable glass straws are also a great Christmas present for those who are looking for new ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Not only that, but they have the ability to transform a beverage from something that looks mundane and “everyday” into something that looks the part, almost as if it’s been served to you in a high-end cocktail bar.

We have a range of reusable glass straws available, complete with bamboo cases so your friend or family member will be able to take their reusable glass straw with them everywhere they go, much like with their reusable coffee cup.

8. Buy your Christmas outfit from a charity shop or swap clothing items friends & family

If you’re on the lookout for a new outfit for the party season, then take a look around the charity shops and second-hand stores for some pre-loved items. There are also a few options when it comes to family and friends. If you have a top that you don’t want that your friends like, and vice-a-versa, then swap with each other. You're preventing clothes from ending up in landfill, you're slowing the production of new items and you’re giving unwanted clothing a new lease of life.

9. Make your own presents

Making your own presents seems like a daunting task, but it needn’t be too complicated. Most people will opt to bake goods at home and package them up creatively with ribbons to give as presents at Christmas. From cookies and fruit cakes to yule logs and mince pies, there will always be a tasty seasonal treat that you can easily make at home. When it comes to packaging them up, however, refrain from using plastic bags or plastic wrapping. Instead, choose brown paper bags or classic cardboard boxes that are certified for use with food. This way, the recipient will be able to devour your delicious baked goods and recycle the packaging it came in, thus being, nearly, zero-waste.

10. Send Christmas ecards

E-cards are ever-popular in today’s age, where we’re trying to cut down on the amount of waste we’re producing at Christmas. E-cards come with multiple benefits; not only are they virtual, with no need for printing or paper at all, but they’re also free to send. You do not have to spend money on postage or worry about whether or not they’re going to get there on time, because they’ll be sent and received at the push of a button.

As an easy thing to develop and a simple and free option to send, it’s hard to see why people are still choosing to send paper cards. If, however, you’d like to stay traditional, sending paper cards can still be done with the planet in mind. When buying them, look to check that they’ve been sustainably made and that they can be recycled. Some cards might not be able to be recycled because they’re shiny or have things stuck to them that cannot be recycled either.

The card pack itself will have all of this information on the back of it. Some Christmas card manufacturers will ensure that new trees are planted every single year to offset the number that are cut down to produce the cards in the first place. Do your research if you want to stick to paper cards, and make your choice based on whether or not they can be recycled and what the company is doing to replace the trees that were used to make those cards for you.